Panthers looking forward to return trip to postseason
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Plymouth State University field hockey team was selected to finish sixth in the Little East Conference (LEC) in 2019 following a vote of the league's 13 head coaches.
Keene State, the six-time defending LEC Tournament champion, was picked to repeat after collecting eight first place votes for 138 points. Castleton, regular season champs in their first season in the league last fall, took home three first place votes for 130 points, while Worcester State grabbed the final two first place votes for 126 points.
Southern Maine (105 points) and WestConn (104 points) rounded out the top five, with PSU (76 points) finishing just ahead of Fitchburg State (73 points) for sixth. Bridgewater State (65 points), Westfield State (64 points) and Eastern Connecticut (60 points) occupied spots eight through ten, and UMass Dartmouth (36 points), Framingham State (21 points) and Salem State (16 points) rounded out the poll.
Head coach Bonnie Lord had led the Panthers to the LEC Tournament each of the last 11 years, before missing out last fall. PSU finished tied for the final playoff spot, but lost out on a shot at the postseason due a tiebreaker. With a solid returning core and many new faces, the 20th-year head coach is looking forward to starting a new streak this fall.
Seniors Kylie Ham (Wayland, Mass.) and Maddie Kabasakalian (Kent, Conn.) and junior Haley Wakefield (Norway, Maine) will provide upperclassmen leadership as the team's captains. Wakefield is a two-time All-LEC honoree and has led the team in scoring each of the past two years. Senior Kaihley Rafferty (Salem, Conn.) and sophomore Mariah Luscher (Holderness, N.H.) are also scoring options as each finished with five goals last fall.
Kabasakalian highlights a midfield unit that also includes senior Keeley Bartolini (Topsham, Maine) and junior Olivia Geisser (Lowell, Mass.). The trio were all regular starters for the Panthers a year ago.
Ham anchors the Panthers' defensive unit, which will also get a boost by the return of junior Kate McPherson (Conway, N.H.), who missed last season. McPherson garnered All-LEC First Team honors in 2017. Junior Jess Distler (Brookfield, N.H.) returns after starting all 16 games in the cage last fall. She posted a 2.37 goals against average and .747 save percentage in her first full season as the starting goalie.
Lord expects seven newcomers to push the returning core, while adding valuable depth.
The Panthers open the regular season at the USM Invitational this weekend. PSU faces Johnson & Wales at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30, then squares off against Manhattanville on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 1:00 p.m. Plymouth's home opener isn't until Saturday, Sept. 28 against Framingham State at the New Hampton School
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